War on Plastic Toys Escalates (Consumer Affairs)
Mark Huffman, Consumer Affairs
Following moves by some of its rivals like Wal-Mart and
Target, Toys "R" Us has announced its own policy to reduce polyvinyl
chloride (PVC) plastic, phthalates, and lead in children's and infant toys.
The company said it is reducing PVC use and is moving
towards a goal of offering PVC-free products.
The toy retailer also announced that by the end of 2008,
juvenile products must be produced without the addition of phthalates.
"Toys"R"Us' new PVC-free goal is good news
for our children's health, safety, and well being," said Michael Schade,
PVC Campaign Coordinator with the Center for Health, Environment and Justice.
"PVC toxic toys often contain dangerous chemicals such as phthalates and
"These toxic chemicals have no place in our children's
toys and should be eliminated from store shelves everywhere they are currently
sold so that no potential harm comes to any child who might otherwise come into
contact with them. We call on Toys "R"Us to take the next step by
setting clear benchmarks and timeframes for phasing out toxic PVC toys in order
to prevent harm to our children's health," he said.
CHEJ and other consumer groups have been applying growing
pressure on Toys R Us to phase out PVC and other harmful chemicals in their
toys. The groups say their efforts have been aimed at educating retailers about
the dangers of PVC. Sears, Kmart, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Nike, and
Apple have recently announced initiatives to eliminate or reduce PVC in both
products and packaging.
Banned in Europe
Some of the chemicals, including PVC, have been banned from
toys in the European Union and California
is also said to be considering a law making them illegal effective next year.
The development comes on the heels of toymakers recalling
millions of toys to protect consumers from lead paint exposure.
What is interesting in this development is that the
tradegroup that represents toymakers, The Toy Industry Association, has
continued to maintain that PVC causes no harm to children, even as many of the
group's members are quietly preparing to take such products off the shelves in
the coming months.
In fact the first indications of what toys without PVC would
look like will be unveiled this coming weekend when manufacturers attending the
world's largest toy trade show, the American International Toy Fair, start
showing up New York.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Green Toys Inc., a San
Francisco-based start-up, will unveil several lines of toys made from organic
and recycled plastics. The company has backing from several eco-friendly
venture capital firms who see a huge marketing bonanza from the latest
controversy and its offerings.
"Depending on how it is made, PVC frequently contains
lead or other toxic metals. Vinyl chloride, used to make PVC, has been
identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a carcinogen. Certain
chemicals in the phthalate family, which often are used to soften PVC in toys
and other products, have been linked by researchers to developmental and other
health problems in children," says the Journal in a report this week.
In January, under pressure from Illinois authorities, Ty
Inc., the maker of Beanie Babies, replaced its Jammin' Jenna dolls with a
redesigned version using denim shoes instead of PVC ones. Testing had found the
vinyl contained quantities of lead that exceeded the state's limit for
children's products under a new law.
Last month, tests by the Center for Environmental Health
found high levels of lead in several products, including certain vinyl coolers
used for storing breast-milk bottles. Michigan
also has a new law restricting lead levels in children's products, according to
the Wall Street Journal.
However, pro-Vinyl groups are not giving up their campaign
to prove their products are safe. The Vinyl Institute, a trade group, is
launching a campaign to inform retailers that PVC is safe.